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Photo: Dominique Issermann
Surviving sex, drugs and rock'n'roll In November he reached the age of 80 and celebrated by putting out a new album. Leonard Cohen is a living legend in the music industry and he is not planning on quitting just yet. Text Fie West Madsen
uzanne, First we take Manhattan and of course Hallelujah. The back catalogue of Leonard Cohen is more impressive than most and it is proof of a songwriter who knows how to write songs that last for decades and live for generations. In November Leonard Cohen turned 80 – an age where many people would probably choose to slow down and bring a long life of working to a close. But not Cohen. He chose the complete opposite, when he released the 13th album of his career just a few days after turning 80.
He still got it One could think, that the continuous stream of records from Cohen over the past few years have something to do the with the fact that Cohen’s now former manager Kelley Lynch stole most of his money, forcing a 74 year old Leonard Cohen back on tour in 2008 to make a living after a 15 year break from music living as a Buddhist. But judging from the remarkable reviews Cohen’s 13th album “Popular Problems” received throughout the world it makes it crystal clear, that you might as well drop that thought immediately. The British newspaper The Telegraph called the album “a masterpiece” and gave it five stars. Another British heavy weight, The Independent, marks that the album has “Simple songs with a sharp lyrical blade” and also give it a five-star review. And under the headline: Leonard Cohen’s Elegant Return one of the world biggest music magazines, Rolling Stone, writes: “And like literally all of his others, it is expertly produced (this time by Patrick Leonard), crafted
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without a wasted note or excessive lyric, and about as wry and knowing in its vocal delivery as any artist out there could ever be.”
A slow start and a bumpy journey But Leonard Cohen has not always been a beloved musician, especially not by critics. He was born in Montreal, Canada in 1934 and it was not until 1967 at the age of 32 that his first record “Songs of Leonard Cohen” was released and it took a lot of struggle to get there, because music was not the first creative path that Cohen followed. In 1956 at the age of only 22 he debuted with a collection of poems titled “Let us compare mythologies” which became the beginning of a career as both a poet and novelist. Leonard Cohen quickly became widely respected for his writings, but when he wanted to pursue a career in music in the beginning of his 30’s agents asked him: “Aren’t you a bit too old for a music career?” Eventually, as we know, he convinced the business, that he was not, and ever since his musical debut in 1956, Cohen has released 13 albums and is still touring and getting great reviews around the world.
The evergreen noone liked Today the song “Hallelujah” stands as one of the evergreens and biggest hits of our time. An X-factor audition round will never pass without the song being sung at least a dozen times and you will probably only know a few people who cannot quote the lyrics more or less precisely. But initially the song was very close to never being released.
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Photo: Dominique Issermann
In 1984 Cohen had finished the album “Various Positions”, which had “Hallelujah” as one of the songs on it. His record label at the time, CBS Records, first refused to release the album with the argument that it definitely was not pop music. The album ended up being released anyway and “Hallelujah” was not an immediate success but a cover of John Cale in 1991 and later on the cover version by artist Jeff Buckley made the song a world wide hit often referred to as one of the greatest hits in modern music. Since then the song has been done in more than 200 cover versions and by 2008 the song had sold more than 5 million copies in CD-format. Many years after, Cohen said: “The album was not considered good enough for the US market. So there was some mild sense of revenge in my heart,” with reference to the boss of the record label Walter Yetnikoff.
Survived sex and drugs – and still singing about it
Photo: Lorca Cohen
Being a musician up through the 70’s and 80’s also meant a lifestyle of party, women and drugs. Leonard Cohen has never been married and has always been known as a bit of a womanizer having dated several famous women - amongst them Janice Joplin whom he wrote the famous song “Chelsea Hotel” about. He has two children, a son named Adam and a daughter named Lorca, with the artist Suzanne Elrod, whom he wrote another famous song “Suzanne” about. Leonard Cohen never made a secret of the fact that he was living a wild life and according to himself one of his biggest achievements is, that he survived both sex and drugs and that he is still here to talk about it through his music. And even though he recently released his 13th studio album by the age of 80, Cohen already at the press conference in London made it very clear, that this is not the end. In fact the singer songwriter is already working on a new album, he announced back then. The title is gonna be “Unpopular Solutions” and it is gonna be a follow up on his latest release “Popular problems”. When Cohen back then was asked when we can expect the new album released, Cohen quoted the French poet Paul Valery: “A poem is never done, just abandoned.” And so we can only wait to see, when the maestro will strike us again.
About Leonard Cohen • Born on the 21st of September 1934 in Montreal, Canada • Leonard Norman Cohen is the songwriter’s full name • Has university degrees in literature from both McGill and Columbia • Debuted as a writer in 1956 and as a musician in 1967 • In the 60’s Cohen bought a house on the Greek island Hydra for 1.500 dollars with no water or electricity, and he could live there for only 1.000 dollars a year • In the 90’s Cohen became a monk and joined a Buddhist society in Los Angeles • Leonard Cohen has been inducted to both the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Singer songwriter Hall of Fame • It took Leonard Cohen about 80 different versions and 2 years to write ’Hallelujah’
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I DON’ T K NOW WHE R E I ’M G OI NG , BUT I P R OMI SE I T WON’ T BE BORI NG Photographer Dennis Stenild, Filter Management Model Sylvester Ulv, Unique models Stylist Bettina Vilslev, Filter Management Hair & make up Jan Stuhr, Le Management using Alterna Assistent Malene Juhl, Le Management Style assistent Mia Bess popionel
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Vintage PRADA earings STYLISTS OWN Trousers BETTINA BAKDAL
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Kimono DECOR Trousers & Sneaks ADDIDAS Bandage STYLISTS OWN
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Denim vest and jeans LEVIS Knittet bra SABINE POUPINEL
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Red leather pants PRAG Bandage STYLIST OWN
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Body WOLFORD Trousers ALBERTA FERRETTI from LOT #29
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Leather trousers PRAG Black shirt NICHOLAS NYBRO JENSEN
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Lace top GRAUMANN THai shorts STYLISTS OWN Fur TIMES UP
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Biker jacket ACNE Glitter shirt PRAG Check skirt DECOR Prada earring TYLISTS OWN
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Pink vintage shirt DECOR Trousers BETTINA BAKDAL Silverchain BEADHOUSE
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Lace blouse SABINE POUPINEL Trench DECOR PRADA vintage earrings STYLISTS OWN
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Dress ROBIN HOOD Vintage helmet DECOR
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All in one PRAG Fox DECOR
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Danish photographer MARIE LOUISE MUNKEGAARD completed her education in 2011, and has already worked up an impressive client list consisting of some of the leading print magazines and newspapers in her native Denmark, as well as international publications such as CondĂŠ Nast Traveller and lifestyle magazine OAK The Nordic Journal. Marie Louise Munkegaard moves in the diverse field of lifestyle photography with an emphasis on a clean, unmistakably Nordic aesthetic. She primarily shoots artistsâ€™ portraits bathed in natural daylight, in which the raw, often minimalistic settings speak volumes about the subjects, as well as food imagery for the likes of world-renowned Michelin-restaurant Kadeau. www.marielouisemunkegaard.com
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Blouse FILIPPA K
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The hideaway Photographer Sara Bille Models Maja S & Simone F Scoop Models Stylist Hanna Holmgren Hair Sherin Forsgren Linkdetails Make up Veronica Lindqvist Mikaslooks Photograper Assistant Hannes Kalmer
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Chemise & Panties CALVIN KLEIN Shirt GAP
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Jacket BLK DNM Cardigan GANT Jacket BLK DNM Sweater TIGER OF SWEDEN
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Jacket BLK DNM Turtleneck H&M Opposite page: Shirt FILIPPA K Pants GANT Top JLINDEBERG Shorts WOOD WOOD
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Before they pass away Jimmy Nelson spent the last three years travelling all over the world, visiting some of the most remote and deserted places on the planet. The reason was to meet - and photograph - tribe people from a group of different tribes before they pass away Photographer Jimmy Nelson Text Mia Rask Vendelbjerg
hey have been travelling for weeks. Not in a comfortable car, but in a tank – the only vehicle that works here in the harsh climate of Siberia. Outside the tank the temperature is minus 40 degrees and the ground is covered with ice and snow. In fact there is nothing but ice and snow as far as the eye can see. But today is different from the other days. Today Jimmy Nelson and his crew find what they have been looking for, the reason why they started their journey: The Chukchi tribe. Surviving the cold by living in tents made from reindeer skins and moving from place to place using dog sledges this group of people has a fascinating story. Jimmy and his crew found the tribe by following the tracks from the rein deer excrements. Meeting these remarkable looking personalities dressed in fur and with weathered faces the British photographer Jimmy Nelson cannot wait to take out his camera to fulfil his mission: to photograph the tribe that he travelled thousands of miles to find. But he will have to wait.
The meeting with the Chukchi tribe is one of many journeys that Jimmy Nelson completed during the last three years while searching for tribes, which are in danger of becoming extinct or disappear in their current form of living. He calls the project ´Before they pass away’ and he has travelled the world to find tribes that live in remote areas and practice a life style that is much different from the modern, digitalised world of today. His goal is to photograph these tribes as art. On the homepage of the project he sums up what he has been trying to achieve Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world. Many of the tribes consists from only a small group of remaining members, but they have proud traditions that go back to their ancestors, and their way of living have not changed a lot for many hundred years, although the world around them has changed.
contact with people who would accept me for who I am, and those were Tibetans monks, because they all looked like me. The contact I had there, the adventure and the fulfilment pushed me to what essentially I’m doing today. So if you take away all the hoopla and look at it from a very personal angle: I’m just an individual who is trying to find his place to make contact. I’ve taken it to an extreme, I travel to extreme places, meet extreme cultures, extreme isolation, extreme lack of language, but I’m still putting myself in the same situation – trying to get contact. It is a very deep-rooted curiosity. Apart from the search for contact, Jimmy Nelson has another agenda about the project. It is about showing the world that we should care more about the characteristic cultures that still exists I ‘m interested in ethno diversity. We are all worried about the plants and the ozone layer and the rainforest - but the ethno diversity of the planet is disappearing 10 times faster, Jimmy Nelson says.
“It took us almost a month to get there. I was expecting to take pictures, but they said: This is not possibly now because today we have to survive, today we need you to help us and if you start interfering with our daily life, we will start suffering. So within three minutes of having spent a month sitting on this tank, we were working in the community. They asked us to become a part of their group, start working, building a tent, cutting wood because it’s cold, and you’re going to die if you don’t.”
In search of contact
To photograph tribal people you will have to find them first, and Jimmy Nelson did a thorough research. He spent the last 30 years getting ready for the project and as a photographer he has been on assignments in many of the areas before. This knowledge combined with help from the local people and what he calls a good instinct let him to the tribes. Most of them did not know that Jimmy Nelson and his crew were coming simply because most of them cannot be contacted. And most of them have seen very few foreigners.
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46-year-old Jimmy Nelson completed the first part of his project this year, but the idea is based on thoughts having filled his mind since he was a child. His interest in peoples different appearances developed when he – at the age of 16 - lost all his hair overnight because of the a disease alopecia totalis. It’s a big issue when you are 16 because your appearance changes, your identity changes, and everybody treat you differently. At the age of 17 I went away – trying to make
Finding the tribes
T H E C H U KC H I T R I B E
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T H E C H U KC H I T R I B E S I B E R I A The ancient Arctic Chukchi live on the peninsula of the Chukotka. Unlike other native groups of Siberia, they have never been conquered by Russian troops. Their environment and traditional culture endured destruction under Soviet rule, by weapon testing and pollution. Due to the harsh climate and difficulty of life in the tundra, hospitality and generosity are highly prized among the Chukchi. They believe that all natural phenomena are considered to have their own spirits. Traditional lifestyle still survives but is increasingly supplemented. 40 | MY magazine
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T H E K A Z A K H T R I B E M O N G O L I A The Kazakhs are a semi-nomadic people and have roamed the mountains and valleys of western Mongolia with their herds since the 19th century. â€œFine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakhâ€?. The ancient art of eagle hunting is one of many traditions and skills that the Kazakhs have been able to hold on to for the last decades. They rely on their clan and herds, believing in pre-Islamic cults of the sky, the ancestors, fire and the supernatural forces of good and evil spirits.
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Despite of that their reaction to Jimmy Nelson was less curious than his reaction to them. A nice example is in Papua New Guinea where you have thousands of different tribes, and each tribe looks different because they live in a different valley. So when you arrive they look at you and you look at them, and they say: where are you from, and they think that you are from another valley. It’s established very quickly: you’re just different. They are very much busy in the “now”, and they are not necessarily aware of how special and unique they are. But they truly are special. The Gauchos in Argentina, the Yalis in Indonesia, The Samburu people in Kenya and the other 26 tribes that Jimmy Nelson met and eternalized during this project. With their painted faces, extravagant hairstyles, handmade jewellery, colourful hats and not at least the harsh conditions of life the people live a life hard to imagine, and the pictures offer an insight into a world far away from the one that we know of. After having overcome the challenge of finding the tribes the next issue was to get the permission to take their photo. A difficult mission when the people you want in your picture has never even seen one. When I asked if could take their photo, most of them did not understand what photography is. So for me it was all about persuading them that they are special, that they are beautiful and giving them compliments, Jimmy Nelson says. And it worked. He got his photos.
A Mr Bean analogy Another obvious challenge about visiting the tribes was how to communicate as most of the tribes speak a language that only they understand. Jimmy Nelson took local translators with him, but often it was not enough because the tribes spoke another dialect. The solution? A Mr. Bean analogy The only way to communicate is becoming very emotional – by using your eyes, arms, jumping, dancing, signalling, and shouting, being very expressive. It’s a bit like a mime artist – or like Mr. Bean. There’s no language, but you laugh anyway, because you know exactly what he is trying to do. And he never talks. You become a form of Mr Bean. A situation that could have been a scene in an episode of Mr Bean was Jimmy Nelson photographing Kazakhs in northwestern Mongolia. He got up very early in the morning to get ready to take the perfect picture at sunset. It was freezing outside and the English photographer was so determined to shoot the perfect photo when the sun started to rise that he forgot the conditions of the place he was staying My camera is primarily metal, and when I took my gloves off to take a picture, my hand froze to it and ripped off the skin of my hand. I looked ridiculous: I was frozen, bleeding and angry with myself and I started to cry. Now this is a Mr. Bean situation. I turned around and behind me was these two women, who followed us up the mountain. I sort of stumbled over like a spoiled child screaming “my fingers, my fingers”, and one of the women opened her jacket and grabbed me and hugged me. And she rocked me to and from and sang me a song. The lesson I learned is that by being vulnerable you can connect with people on any level. A lesson that Jimmy Nelson learned several times during the travels. The most beautiful and unexpected thing that happened was that I made friends, I made a connection through laughter by making a complete fool of my self - unintended. The days after the relationship became warmer and warmer and I was able to take the photos that I came for. If you make people laugh, they look after you. The sooner you become one of them, the sooner you participate, the sooner you make contact.
No tomorrow Despite of the simple living that characterises many of the tribes living in wild nature and with no modern facilities Jimmy Nelson was surprised of how content the tribes were about their way of living. We in the modern world essentially have everything: houses, money, cars, electricity, but in many ways because we are so developed, there has become a void – we have stopped being able to feel the “now”. We stopped being able to being content with just being. We want more. It’s always about the future.
THE K A ZAK H TR IBE
It’s not about the past. It’s not about today. It’s very much about tomorrow. The tribes don’t really have that. They are not busy with their pension, they are not busy about the past, they are very busy with today, surviving today and very busy with one another. And they don’t use the term happiness. They are not looking for happiness. They just are. And because they are so balanced with themselves and their community, and the nature and so busy just being, they don’t have that void and that’s what struck me the most. In general Jimmy Nelson believes that there is too much talk about happiness and who is the happiest people on earth It’s always the struggle for happiness, it’s the journey not the destination, it’s the foreplay, not the sex, it is the search for it. That search for it is what we strive for, but it’s a very shallow concept, it’s filling an empty hole. Happiness is about now, about being content with today, and that’s what they all do – the tribes. That’s what I noticed the most in all the places.
Inspired by their way of life The journeys and the different lifestyles Jimmy Nelson have met through out his life as a travelling photographer have inspired him in many ways. One good example is that his wife and him and their children all sleep together in the same bed – naked. My eldest child is now 17 years old, but when her boyfriend is not here, we still all sleep together. We always have done. This is something I noticed many years ago when I was a child about the tribes, and how they all live together. I believe very strongly that the security and safety you give your children by doing this is very profound. And the confidence they now have as young teenagers is phenomenal, and I’m sure most of it is based on this feeling of belonging in our little group and tribe. They are not afraid. I’m aware that it’s very unusual, but we literally all crawl into bed naked because we know each other very well and it’s always been like this. He believes that we can learn a lot from looking at the tribes and their way of living. And he also feels that the meetings made him wiser about how to react in situations in everyday life I am trusting my instinct a lot more. The tribal people teach you to very, very quickly trust your inner feeling. It sounds just a little bit esoteric, and I don’t mean this in that way. But we have become very distant from our instinct in our world. We have ended up relying on computers, meaning that if we feel unwell about something, we will google it. The tribal people teach me to go back to my roots and trust my instincts, and 99 percent of the time that’s right.
Just the beginning Jimmy Nelson took the last picture almost a year ago and since he came back from the last journey he has been busy turning the pictures into a book. At the moment he is doing
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T H E A S A R O T R I B E PA P UA N E W G U I N E A The legendary Asaro Mudmen first met with the Western world in the middle of the 20th century. Legend has it that the Mudmen were forced to f lee from an enemy into the Asaro River where they waited until dusk to escape. The enemy saw them rise from the banks covered in mud and thought they were spirits. The Asaro still apply mud and masks to keep the illusion alive and terrify other tribes.
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T H E M U R S I T R I B E E T H I O P I A Extreme drought has made it difficult to feed themselves by means of traditional cultivation and herding. The establishment of national parks has restricted their access and threatened their natural resources. The Mursi are famous for their stick-fighting ceremony and Mursi women are known for wearing clay plates in their lower lips. Their economy concentrated on bartering and sharing possessions. This changed when tourists arrived, offering money in exchange for photographs.
a lot of promotion, talks, gallery shows and selling the photos. Even though a photo project of three years durations and visiting 44 countries sounds like quite a handful, Jimmy Nelson does not feel that he is done. He has only just begun. The next project is to go back to the tribes and show them the photos. The CNN is following him returning to the tribes and it will end up in a one-hour documentary once they finish We have to start documenting these cultures. If they disappear we will lose something very important. It is our origins. And they will change, but we will have to start at dialog and learn from each other. We have to ask our selves: What can we learn from them? And what can they learn from us? And if it works out well, Jimmy Nelson will start visiting and photographing even more tribes I’ve only just begun. This is the first part, the opening stage. I’m going to return to all the tribes I’ve been to and film them, and take the book back and show them the pictures. Then I’m going to 35 more tribes, and then the project after that is part of the same thing: I want to study how we are retribing in the developed world, there are a tendency of younger people leaving the digital world and wanting to regroup themselves in a tribal context. In japan there’s a world of war craft tribe. They have stopped playing the game on the computer, but they are living as the characters, in the costumes, in the same environment, because they want to become part of a new group – I find that very interesting. But the first step is to go back to the tribes where it all began. That’s very important. I took something. I instinctually knew what I was doing, but I did not know where it would end up, but now having the opportunity to go back it feels like completing the circle.
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THE SUM BURU TR I BE K ENYA As cattle-herding Nilotes, The Samburu reached Kenya some five hundred years ago. They have to relocate every 5 to 6 weeks to ensure their cattle can feed themselves. They are independent and egalitarian people, much more traditional than the Masaai. Their society has depended on cattle and warfare for so long that they find it hard to change to a more sedentary lifestyle.
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Jimmy Nelson Born in England 46 years old Started taking pictures professionally when he was 17 Worked all over the world on photo assignments Worked many years as a fashion photographer When he’s not away travelling, he lives in Amsterdam – his home for the last 20 years. He lives with his Dutch wife and their children.
Before They Pass Away Jimmy Nelson went on 13 journeys in 44 countries He photographed 29 tribes The project lasted three years Each journey lasted 1 – 1 ½ months all together Read more about the project here: www.beforethey.com www.teNeues.com
The pictures and the camera On his journeys photograph Jimmy Nelson used a 50-year-old 4x5 camera to photograph the tribes. The reason for that he describes in the following: The major reason is that it slows you down. We are running quicker and quicker, the digitalisations of everything, including photography, means that we are not going back to the basics. If you go somewhere very cold and very difficult, it’s very easy to stay in the car, keep your gloves on, put on a 300 mm tele lens, put in a 65 megabyte card, turn up the ISO to ultimate light sensitivity and you do not have to think, you just put your finger on the bottom and you will get something. If you go back to using a camera that is 50 years old, you have one sheet of film - the light sensitivity is 25 ISO so it requires that you have to shoot for 4 seconds – you have to invest a long time in your subject matter, persuade them to sit still or stand still on a mountain. So by going back to the basics, you force your personality out in the subject matter you are communicating with, because you have to be very emotional. And it is extremely exciting to put all your senses in that one sheet of film. In the end of a journey you are miles away on the other side of the planet, you have been travelling for months and you have two of these sheets left. And you have only got two opportunities to make a picture – you think very carefully before you press the shutter. It is far more exciting if I can make a picture that is powerful than keeping my finger on the bottom and just cover everything. The detail of the negatives from this type of camera and pictures is phenomenal, the detail goes far beyond digital pictures, but it is also a different detail, it is a detail of grain and structure and not of pixels. So I think there is a lot more soul in it.
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L ulu vs. Laura
Josephine Svane Models
Lululeika & Laura H, Scoop models Stylist Fadi Morad Fadimorad.com Hair & make up Aanastasia Hess
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Ring with pearl CHRISTINE BUKKEHAVE Golden ring & OTHER STORIES Earring KATRINE KRISTENSEN Earpiece with pearls and gold MADE BY STYLIST Top BIRGITTE HERSKIND
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Ear cuff and bracelets CHRISTINE BUKKEHAVE Earpiece MADE BY STYLIST Top and overalls WEEKDAY
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Ear-and arm cuff & OTHER STORIES Rings KATRINE KRISTENSEN Tank top BIRGITTE HERSKIND Double ring with pearls CHRISTINE BUKKEHAVE Earpiece MADE BY STYLIST Long sleeved top WEEKDAY Both skirts DESIGNERS REMIX
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Nose ring CHRISTINE BUKKEHAVE Turtleneck JOHN SMEDLEY
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Brooches worn on shoulders CHRISTINE BUKKEHAVE Knit MODELS OWN Coat WEEKDAY
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I am a DIY type of musician who fiddles with cables and gear but I sound like a girl from Fairyland The Danish musician Hannah Schneider was born into the world of music. And with a voice like a fairy and the mind of a true craftsman, she is one of those women in music who does everything herself.
Text Fie West Madsen | Photographer Olivia Rohde
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“Hey, nice meeting you. Grab a drink and feel at home!” Hannah says while straightening her hair in front of the mirror. She points to the fridge with beer next to the door of the backstage room at the music venue Vega in Copenhagen. The room is not bigger than 25 square meters with walls in a faded yellow color, that should have been painted again years ago. The only furniture in the room is two worn black leather couches, a chair and two tables – one of them with an empty bottle of ecological juice and a tea bag in a paper cup on it. An assortment of snacks consisting of some chips, crackers, chocolate, and a bottle of Havana Club – and of course the fridge with beer – with a no smoking sign on it. All of it untouched though. Because right now being a musician in a backstage room in Copenhagen is first and foremost about getting ready and controlling the nerves. Electronica pop singer songwriter Hannah Schneider with her band: pianist Nicolai Kornerup, drummer Anders Meinhardt and back up singer Rezwan Farmi are getting ready to perform songs from Hannah Schneider’s new album ‘Red Lines’. Pianist Nicolai is ironing a sequin colored shirt on an old, ripped ironing board. He wears it and smiles satisfied. Rezwan also wears a sequin colored shirt today. “We like to match a little in the band,” Nicolai says smiling. Hannah is not wearing sequins but changes into a leather skirt and a black shirt with gold spots – still a bit sparkly. Only drummer Anders stands out with his black hoodie. They all relax in the black couches. Hannah hums one of her songs and plays with her iPhone. All of the sudden she jumps up. “Hey should I wear heels?” Hannah changes from her Adidas sneakers into a pair of black high-heeled boots. “No, no sneaks are actually better,” Nicolai says promptly after Hannah’s change of shoes. “That is way too country for you.” They all agree that the Adidas sneakers are going back on and Hannah changes back before leaving the room to hear a few songs by her warm up band Mattis.
Eating, sleeping and playing music Out of all the things Hannah Schneider could have chosen to spend her life doing, she chose music. And that is no coincidence at all. She grew up in a suburban home outside of Copenhagen with both mother and father being classical musicians. “I have been playing instruments since I started playing the violin as a 4-year-old and then later I started playing the piano. It has of course been an enormous part of my life because my parents are musicians and my father’s family was also musicians, so it all goes way back. Playing music have always been like eating and sleeping – just a natural thing. And I have always loved it. I have not been paced – music has just always been there and was a big part of my life. I remember I practiced every morning before school,” Hannah tells. At the age of 6 she added yet another instrument to her repertoire when she started to sing in a choir. And even though she grew up in a family with a tradition for classical music, it did not take long for a young Hannah to discover that it was not violin or piano but the voice that was her favorite instrument. “When I was about 8 years old, I noticed that being able to do something with my voice was really something I enjoyed. It is very personal and there is a lot of identity to a voice because all voices are different, and my voice was just me. I was really fascinated by that.” Around the age of 10 Hannah started to write her own songs and even though it was of course quite basic, she quickly fell in love with creating songs all by herself. “As soon as I found out I could make my own music, it was really a revelation to me, and I think it was the first time I thought: I want to do this forever. Just the idea that I could make my own song. It was not there before, but then you make it, and then you have something that is completely your own. In classical music you get a node and play something someone else has made, so this was really an eye opener to me,” Hannah explains when we are meeting a few weeks after the concert in Vega. She is at the small café Gavlen in the center of Nørrebro in Copenhagen with a classic Danish open sandwich with shrimps in front of her. The café is classical Nørrebro style with dark brown furniture and a subdued lightening. This is her hangout spot. “This is really a local area. Everyone knows each other and I really like that. Every morning when you leave your apartment you will meet someone you know and say good morning. A lot of artistic people live in the area and
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you can feel that. This area really means a lot to me,” Hannah says. “Basically, I live just around the corner, and it is kind of funny that we are here now because I used to live just up there,” she says smiling and points her finger to the sealing.
“Mom, why couldn’t you just be a hairdresser?” But before Hannah Schneider surrounded herself with likeminded artistic and musical people at Nørrebro in Copenhagen, she found it hard to fit in coming from a family where music was everywhere and meant everything. “I was very alone with my passion for music. I grew up in Virum, which is a really nice family area with modern kitchens and chic people. And I just lived in a house that was a total mess and with music on all floors. We were really strange and different, and I remember I once asked my mother crying: Why couldn’t you just be a hairdresser?” Hanna shows the sad face she showed her mother when confronting her with her job situation. “I was also insanely sorry that my name was Hannah, because it was so strange. I just wanted to be called Bettina, which was a very normal Danish name. I was really different and there was not really someone who understood what I was doing, so I really had a strong urge to go somewhere else. I really felt alone in the fort out there in Virum.” It did not take the young Hannah Schneider long to follow the urge to go somewhere else. Around the age of 10 she moved to a school in the center of Copenhagen and every day she had to take the train by herself to get there. In the city everything was different. It was full of life and at the school Hannah did not stand out as much as the classes were all a big mix of different kinds of children with different interests. She started her first band and they borrowed the keys to the school’s music room so they could play in between classes. From there on it was straight forward. Hannah went to a Copenhagen high school that offered music classes and after that she got into the Danish Academy of Music where she started the folk rock band Wired Little Lady. They quickly made it to the stages – even in America, and Hannah also started to write songs on her own with different people. One of them was Kim Richey, a lady that Hannah now calls her mentor, and Richie would profoundly change the young girl’s career.
Could have been in Evanescence “We wanna go on, now!” the drummer Anders says with an inpatient tone to his voice. The warm up band Mattis has been playing for around and hour and it is not gonna be too long until Hannah and her band takes the stage. “I need a shot!” Anders exclaims and Nicolai, Rezwan and Hannah laugh. She picks up a music magazine from the table. It has an article about her along with a picture in dark colors dominated by Hannah’s dark brown hair. “Isn’t this a little jazz?” she says, not too satisfied with the look. “No, I would say it is Goth – it’s Evanescence,” Nicolai says with a hint of irony and reference to the band’s female lead singer who has dark brown almost black hair and a light voice just like Hannah. Everyone laughs loudly. “I could have been in Evanescence and look at us now in this shit hole. Think about how awesome my life could have been?” Hannah says and everyone laughs again. “No actually, we listen to a lot of Evanescence in the car when we are driving to concert venues around the country,” she explains, aware that this was an inside band-joke. They are all quiet for a while. Hanging out in the couches again. The concert is moving closer and the vibe in the small backstage room gets more and more tense as the clock moves closer to nine. Hannah breaks the silence after a while. “I’m seriously gonna sleep a whole week in a row when this week is over.” It has been a tough week for the band. Hannah’s new album was released on Monday and every day for the entire week they have been out playing the new songs. The day before at a morning show at 6 am. Hannah walks around and hums one of her songs, now a little louder than before. Nicolai opens a beer and hits himself on the thighs while Anders starts to jump, as if he is warming up for a run. “Are you nervous as well?” Rezwan asks him. “Yes dammit I’m nervous – I’m an artist!” Nicolai joins in on the physical warm up and the boys start to stretch. “There is a silly mood in Hannah Schneider’s backstage room,” Hannah concludes. “But we are a pretty band.” They all gather around in a circle, arms around each other. “This is gonna be so great,
we have already won,” Hannah says and they all do their traditional yell of dog sounds. Anders adds a monkey cry before he leaves for the stage. Nicolai takes a sip of his beer and Hannah and Rezwan puts on their monitors. Hannah Schneider and band are ready to take on Vega this Friday night.
A mentor and a primetime hit song Hannah Schneider has always written her songs in English. Her dad is an American so it was a natural thing for her to express herself in that language. “It’s my artist language,” as she puts it. With no language barrier it made it easy for the young talent to work with people outside of Denmark. An event at the Danish Academy of Music led to a chance encounter between Hannah and a songwriter named Kim Richey. She was very interested in Hannah’s music and invited her to London to write songs with her. Even though Hannah had already been abroad with her music, this was different. “She is much older than me, and she is a real nomad who never lives in the same place for long. It was really a milestone to meet her. I went to London to write songs with her and at that time she lived in the Beatles’ producer George Martin’s son’s apartment. So the first time I was writing with another person, I was sitting there with personal pictures and family photos of the Beatles, and I did not know her at all.” “We had never written songs together before and the first song we did was called ‘The absence of your company’, which is still one of the best songs I’ve ever written. It ended up on the American TV-show Grey’s Anatomy, and that became a pretty crazy start. People in America thought I was a celebrity and I went to the craziest Manhattan apartment to write songs with number one song writers,” Hannah tells. “Sorry I’m just gonna take a bite,” she adds and take a big bite of the shrimp sandwich still on the plate in front of her at café Gavlen.
The Hannah Schneider sound After the breakthrough in America and collaborations with other artists Hannah continued to write a lot of songs and could feel how she developed and became a better writer. “Some songwriters can write hits, and I have great respect for that. But for me it has always been about being better at articulating what I want to express. And it is in fact extremely old-fashioned; a good song is a song that can stand on its own. If you sang it tomorrow, it would be a good song, if a man in China sang it, it would be good,” Hannah explains. At one point she talks to the producer Kåre Kabel Mai who also worked with Hannah’s band Wired Little Lady. He thinks it is time for Hannah to quit the band and focus on a solo project. Right around the same time Hannah started to play around with her computer, discovering new sounds and ways to make music. “One week I was sick at home, half depressed and snotty and then I thought: Now I’m gonna try to record something. Until then what I did had been more classical piano and singing, but then I began to find samples online and record sounds from the room like a door slamming. I put the sounds on my computer and started to play with it – that became my Hannah Schneider project and my signature sound. Actually I only did it because I could not record cool drum sounds or other tricks, so I had to find other things that worked. And in that week I wrote some of the best songs I have ever made.” Hannah’s debut album simply called ‘Hannah Schneider’ was released in 2009 on the label Sony and included hit songs like ‘Raindrops’ written in that week of sickness and snot. 27-year-old Hannah who had found her own way into the music business could finally hold her very own record. But the singer quickly discovered that there are other things to music than just music. “It was amazing hearing my songs on the radio. It was very exciting all together but also very hard. I had always made my music on my own terms and only dealt with my own opinion. All of a sudden other people also had an opinion about my music, and there had to be a marketing strategy and a lot of other stuff around the album that did not have anything to do with music. At that point I really hit a wall, because I thought everyone was focused on everything but the music and I was not happy at all,” Hannah remembers.
About Hannah Schneider Born in 1982 Both her parents are classical musicians Plays violin and piano but her music is in the style of singer songwriter pop/electronica Studied music at the Danish Academy of Music Has released three studio albums: ‘Hannah Schneider’ 2009 ‘Me vs. I’ 2012 ‘Red Lines’ 2014 One of her biggest hits and one of her personal favorite songs is ‘Raindrops’ from the first album. Current Scandinavian artists like Jenny Wilson, Lykke Li and Agnes Obel influence her music.
Back to the roots
A woman in a man’s world
After her first album Hannah felt the need to make music on her own terms again. No marketing strategies or other things that did not have anything to do with the music. She decided to invite some music colleges and friends over and let them play covers of her own songs for open windows. Right there in the middle of Nørrebro in her 45 square meter apartment on top of café Gavlen. No big production or anything else - just the music. “I called it Window Sessions,” Hannah says. It started out as small videos on YouTube, but after a short while Window Sessions became an album, recorded right there in Hannah’s kitchen and living room and with the sounds from the streets present on every song. They did the whole record of covers in four days. The simplicity of the project became the inspiration to Hannah’s next project. Her mentor Kim Rickey had heard Window Sessions and encouraged Hannah to do something similar on her own next record. And Hannah once again listened to her. “It was pretty crazy, because I had a music program and knew how to record a bit, but I did not have decent microphones or any studio so I recorded it all up there in my apartment. It was very different. I told my record company: Now am I doing this, are you in? And that was fine by them. From that moment on I was in charge of everything regarding the record. I even had the cover made myself. I really needed to be part of the whole process,” Hannah says.
The band takes the stage and starts playing quietly while blue and red lights shine from the stage. When Hannah takes the stage a few minutes later, the crowd screams and clap – this it what they came for. The audience is a wide mix of people. From teenage girls that see the first song playing through their iPhone screens to couples sharing a beer and moving slowly from side to side. But although it is a big mix at Vega this evening, the same thing goes for the very young to the elderly of the audience: They all sing along to almost every song. Dedicated fans. “Hey everyone, thank you so much. It’s great to see you here tonight,” Hannah says after a few songs, almost like she is speaking to an old friend. “This next song is from my new album Red Lines, and it is called ’Butterfly Lovers’,” she begins and tells the story about how the song was created after she met a Chinese woman at an art installation. The woman kept whispering ’Butterfly Lovers’ in her ear. She went home and made a beautiful song that she loved – and then her producers on the new album turned it into something completely different, she tells, and starts playing.
In general Hannah Schneider has never been afraid of going in a new direction and being different. She has always been a DIY-musician and she encourages more female musicians to dare take the chance. “A lot of cool women makes electronic music, but it is very much a man’s world, and women are the ones with the hairbrush and the guitar. You rarely see a girl running around and messing with cables and setting up the gear. Maybe that’s just me?” Hannah laughs. “Because I use a loop pedal and use a lot of different instruments I have gotten a reputation as a multi-instrumentalist. And I am a woman, a woman who does something unconventional. I am very glad if I can be a role model in that way. I would love it if more girls took matters into their own hands.”
In 2012 the album ‘Me vs. I’ was released - completely different and widely applauded by critics. “This record is still the one that represents me the most. It is very much about the processes that happened after my first record, where you suddenly see yourself from the outside and can be hard on yourself. It is a very melancholic and very introvert album. You can hear sounds from outside the street in some songs, and you can hear the chirping of birds from the cottage where I recorded other songs.” The only problem with a record produced in such a minimalistic matter was how to perform it live? A lot of musicians pre-records sounds onto a computer, but Hannah once again chose an alternative way. “I bought a loop pedal, which makes the sounds repeat itself. It can be quite risky and difficult. It was a whole new thing for me, and also part of the basis for the production of the album, that the sounds from the room were a part of the songs. That also meant that no concerts were the same, because the sounds were never the same. Using this tool was a great musical revolution for me and it also made it possible to play concerts alone which I have done a lot. It is really a way to get close to your audience.”
Always in a new direction The song ’Butterfly Lovers’ eventually became a symbol of the process of working with the new and third Hannah Schneider album ’Red Lines’. This time it was not a sad experience that became the inspiration to a new sound and project – this time it was the birth of Hannah’s daughter. “I thought: If I can give birth to a child, I can damn well also do a new crazy project,” Hannah says smiling. And so the new project with the producer team Lasse Baunkilde and Andreas Sommer began. “I have a very light and feminine voice, and my songs are also feminine in a way, and I wanted to see what happened when you combined it with something masculine. To work with contrasts has always been interesting to me. I would also like to open up and make more outgoing music than I had done before,” says Hannah. Other people might loose their breath by the idea of changing patterns all the time. But for Hannah it has always been important to explore the music and take it all the way to the edge – and preferable one step more. “I see myself as a musician on a lifelong path, and a lot of ideas pops up and then disappears again. I’d rather be there a very long time, and I think I can do that by trying different things. It is not certain everything will be just as good or understood as you would like it to be understood, but somehow you have to learn to put something out there, and then you have to trust that your songwriting or production is somehow consistent and has a red thread through it all,” Hannah explains.
Hannah always felt like she was a bit less unconventional if she looked outside of Denmark. That is also why ‘Red Lines’ is also released on an English record label and Hannah is going to play concerts there. Though, she does understand why some people find it hard to place her as an artist. “I am a bit of a strange fish. How to grasp it? My name is Hannah Schneider, it sounds as though I am from Germany, but I am really half Danish half American. I am a DIY type of musician, who fiddles with cables but I sound like a girl from Fairyland. There are such contradictions that might make people think; Who is this Hannah?” She laughs a bit again. “And I can make sure, my next record will be something completely different.”
Just write it to Brian The concert room of Vega is empty shortly after Hannah and her band has left the stage. They rush back to the back stage room all in an uplifting mood. Tonight’s show went great. Now the beers from the fridge are put on the table, and the Havana Club is opened. Hannah goes straight for a little black metal box with the word ’Merchandise’ on it. Her job is not done yet. “If someone would bring me a drink down to the cloakroom that would be great,” she says while halfway out of the door. In the wardrobe a line of fans are waiting to buy signed cd’s and vinyls. Hannah goes behind the counter and starts selling. “You were really amazing,” a girl says. And Hannah politely thanks her and signs the cd the girl is buying. “What do you want me to write on this one?” Hannah ask the next in line. “Just write it to Brian – and thank you for a nice concert,” a middle age guy answers. And so the queue goes on, while the wardrobe next to it slowly empties. Nikolaj stops by with a plastic cup - the drink Hannah asked for.
MY magazine | 59
60 | MY magazine
MY magazine is an inspiring coffee table magazine featuring aesthetic photo reports, interviews with great personalities from the art and mu...
Published on Aug 19, 2015
MY magazine is an inspiring coffee table magazine featuring aesthetic photo reports, interviews with great personalities from the art and mu...